Public speaking is something a lot of people fear. But, if you want to get ahead in your government career, you need to face your fear and become a confident and persuasive public speaker.
With limited budget for traveling to distant professional development trainings, online courses are a way to build your skills. You might be surprised that you can take steps to learn public speaking at your desk or at home, and often at whatever time best fits your schedule.
We’ve found seven of the best online courses that can help government employees like yourself become better at public speaking. Some are free, and the rest are priced right for government agencies of any size.
University of Washington’s Introduction to Public Speaking
Designed to help nervous beginners become confident speakers, this Introduction to Public Speaking course gives you a skill set you can use to prepare and deliver effective presentations on public issues. This popular course covers understanding speech, making ideas compelling and memorable, illustrating and delivering your ideas, overcoming your fear of public speaking, and developing great delivery. Taught by Dr. Matt McGarrity of the University of Washington’s Department of Communication, you’ll need to commit to five 2-hour lectures, plus time to complete quizzes and assignments, and for learning from other participants. Dr. McGarrity also offers advanced courses on speaking to inform, persuade, and entertain.
This online course is offered at specific times and costs $79 on Coursera. Or, you can audit the course for free (you get course materials but no grading) or apply for financial aid.
Public Speaking: Ten Tips from GovLoop’s Founder
Public speaking is an art that takes practice. While you can’t wake up and assume you’re going to be an excellent public speaker, you can hone the skills to get closer to mastery. After all, being an effective presenter is a critical competency for everyone in an organization, not just leaders. In Public Speaking: Ten Tips from GovLoop’s Founder, Steve Ressler quickly reviews practical public speaking tips, including learning to speak slowly and keep your remarks succinct, incorporating interaction and stories into your presentation, paying attention to the design of your slides, and knowing your content cold.
The free 30-minute online video is a handy and quick introduction to public speaking for government workers.
Nancy Duarte’s Persuasive Presentations eCourse
Nancy Duarte is one of the leading experts in presentation design and public speaking. Her Persuasive Presentations eCourse focuses on the skills you need to connect more deeply with your audience. The curriculum includes how to organize a coherent presentation narrative, create persuasive messages and visuals, connect with and engage your audience, win over tough crowds, show people why your ideas matter to them, and strike the right tone in any situation. The course is on-demand and self-guided, allowing you to take the 67 lesson modules at your own pace when your schedule allows.
The online course can be started at any time and costs $495. Before signing up, check out the free sample lesson to decide if this online course is right for you.
The Leadership Institute’s Fearless Presentations
Fearless Presentations is a seminar for employees of government agencies who want to improve their communications skills. The Leadership Institute offers an online version of the popular seminar for those who prefer to learn at their own pace. Through the course, you’ll learn how to reduce your fears, design your entire presentation from scratch in minutes, and add energy and enthusiasm to even the most boring topics. You’ll also discover new ways to make make presenting easier and more effective through stories, examples, audience participation, analogies, and showmanship.
The five-part online course can be started at any time and costs $199. Or, just purchase access to the individual sections you want most for $49 each.
Dale Carnegie Training’s How to Present Online
Public speaking doesn’t just happen in person. Government professionals are often called on to host webinars for the public, make presentations to colleagues while teleworking, and run online trainings, Dale Carnegie’s How to Present Online covers key topics like how to use voice, visuals, and technology to deliver a high-impact experience. Other concepts include using interactivity and strong visuals to keep participants engaged and entertained.
The 1-hour online course is offered about once a month and costs $129. If that sounds like a lot of money for a one hour webinar, check with your agency to see if they’ll pay your way.
TJ Walker’s How to Be a Government Spokesperson
Government employees often need to speak to the media and at press conferences. It’s not just a job for high-level officials, press spokespeople, and public information officers. Especially at local or smaller government agencies, it’s important that every staff member know how to master every media encounter. In How to Be a Government Spokesperson, public speaking trainer TJ Walker helps you effectively communicate your agency’s messages to the media. The course concentrates on creating and controlling your message, being believable and credible, answering media questions, and speaking in sound bites.
The 5-part curriculum breaks the information into 69 lectures so you can learn at your own pace. The online course costs $20 on Udemy.
Orai isn’t your traditional online training. It’s a prize-winning app designed to help you become a better speaker. Created by Paritosh Gupta and Danish Dhamani with the guidance of linguists, neuroscientists, and public speaking experts, Orai offers instant insights and encouragement so you’ll want to practice every day. The app analyzes your speech clarity, listens for filler words like “um” and “uh,” checks that you’re talking neither too fast or too slow, and measures your vocal energy level so you don’t lapse into a dull monotone.
Orai is free. Currently, it is only available on iOS.
When it’s time to move on from online training to real life practice
Let’s get real. Online trainings can only take you so far. To become a confident and persuasive public speaker, you eventually have to stand up in front of people and start talking. To hone your public speaking skills, join a Toastmasters club in your area, attend a local public speaking Meetup, or enroll in public speaking classes at your local community college or university.
We’re going to publish a larger list of the best online trainings for government employees later in 2017. What online trainings do you recommend? If your company hosts online trainings, which are the most popular and well-reviewed? Share the best online trainings for government employees in the comments and they just might appear in our article.
Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, writer, and speaker based in San Francisco. She helps organizations engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.
The seven (7) courses sound great. I will be checking them out as time allows. Remember everyone, public speaking is all about the “public” so I recommend for learning and practicing public speaking for work, career, volunteerism, and all around getting your feet in the game — check your local area for a Toastmasters club near you. Your employer may help cover the annual dues as part of your training culture. If not, I highly recommend you check out a club near you. Be a guest at several clubs and find the best fit. There are specialty clubs that focus on storytelling, drama, video, etc. Toastmasters is beginning a new educational program called Pathways. Pathways has over 300 competencies for your career, business, and in your life. Come check out a Toastmasters club near you.
We think alike, aodhan. In case you missed it, at the end of the article I do encourage people to also seek out in-person opportunities to practice their public speaking skills, including clubs like Toastmasters. Thanks for your comment.
I am interested in the best online trainings for government employees around Project Management and/or Microsoft Project. I did not find the PMI PMP Online Prep very useful for someone will little or no formal PM experience; it was a series of pre-recorded, non-interactive lectures.
We’ll see if we can round up the best project management online trainings in a future article, Karolyn.
And, as you no doubt know, different people learn in different ways. People with busy, unpredictable schedules may need pre-recorded trainings they can take at their own pace at any hour of the day or night. Introverts and people with social anxiety might prefer non-interactive trainings so their discomfort doesn’t interfere with their ability to learn. It sounds like you might prefer in-person trainings, or at least scheduled online seminars that simulate a classroom setting.
Great article, Lauren. I’ll check some of them out.
Toastmasters also offers online meetings to work on communication skills. Toastmasters is also rolling out a new educational program called “Pathways” that is based online. There are 10 paths, and each path is made up of five levels of increasing complexity.
Municipal Govie and Toastmaster
I love the enthusiasm the Toastmasters crowd brings to public speaking! Thanks for sharing Tania.